The Northern Marianas College is seeking a waiver from the Board of Regents so it could give a higher salary to an off-island candidate for a hard-to-fill position, a proposal that received strong opposition from two regents who said the proposal is “unjust and unfair” to current college employees.
NMC president Sharon Y. Hart, Ph.D., and human resource officer Christopher Timmons presented the proposal to the board yesterday, saying the waiver is necessary to fill one of the most challenging and hard-to-fill positions at the college: nursing instructor.
They disclosed that the female applicant is qualified and willing to accept the step 1 salary grade, but Timmons admitted that he is uncomfortable making the offer. A step 1 salary grade amounts to $25,000 per year.
Timmons and Hart said that offering the amount to the applicant who has a master’s degree might open potential legal issues for the college. Timmons said the Nursing Department currently has an instructor who has a bachelor’s degree but is getting over $40,000 per year. The applicant was offered only $23,000 per annum for the same position despite having a master’s degree and experience.
It is for this reason, Timmons said, that they want the exemption for this applicant, who has been put on hold for two weeks now.
Timmons said he will also recommend to the board the creation of a new faculty salary floor, which he acknowledged may take time to complete. For now, he emphasized the urgency of the need for the waiver so as not to lose the qualified candidate.
“I have difficulty in recruiting here and following the [salary schedule],” Timmons told the board. “I am asking the board to amend the procedure you adopted in 2011.”
At NMC, the lowest paid full-time academic instructor makes about $39,000 per year while the step 1 grade for a master’s degree holder is $25,000. Timmons pointed out the big discrepancy in the two amounts and admitted that he can’t “legally” offer the $25,000 salary package to the applicant.
Timmons also said that under the current salary policy, experience was excluded among the factors considered when deciding on the salary of employees.
According to regent William Torres, the management’s practice of providing special or case-by-case accommodation has to stop. He believes that if the applicant is willing to accept the starting salary offer—regardless of qualification or experience—then there should be no problem.
Regent Andrew Orsini also reminded the board of recent allegations of favoritism and special accommodations raised by the faculty against the management when they issued a no-confidence vote against Hart in December.
When asked for guidance, board legal counsel Jesus Borja emphasized the importance of adhering to board policies and procedures. However, he also reminded the board that it has a policy on suspending its own procedures if the board wishes to do so.
Board chair Juan T. Lizama referred the issue to the committee level for review and deliberation.